Alan D. MacCormack

17 Results


A Methodology for Operationalizing Enterprise Architecture and Evaluating Enterprise IT Flexibility

When dealing with complex information system architectures, changes often propagate in unexpected ways, increasing the costs of adapting the system to future needs. In this paper the authors use data from a real firm and develop a robust network-based methodology by which to visualize and measure any firm's enterprise architecture. They also explore the dynamics of how different types of coupling influence the flexibility of enterprise architectures. They conclude with insights for practicing managers who must, for example, allocate resources and identify opportunities for system redesign. Read More

FIELD Trip: Conquering the Gap Between Knowing and Doing

Forget what you remember about school field trips. Harvard Business School is in its fourth year of a bold innovation that ships all first-year students on global excursions. FIELD leaders Alan MacCormack and Tony Mayo describe lessons learned so far. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

Visualizing and Measuring Software Portfolio Architectures: A Flexibility Analysis

Contemporary business environments are constantly evolving, requiring continual changes to the software applications that support a business. Moreover, during recent decades, the sheer number of applications has grown significantly, and they have become increasingly interdependent. Many companies find that managing applications and implementing changes to their application portfolio architecture is increasingly difficult and expensive. Firms need a way to visualize and analyze the modularity of their software portfolio architectures and the degree of coupling between components. In this paper, the authors test a method for visualizing and measuring software portfolio architectures using data of a biopharmaceutical firm's enterprise architecture. The authors also use the measures to predict the costs of architectural change. Findings show, first, that the biopharmaceutical firm's enterprise architecture can be classified as core-periphery. This means that 1) there is one cyclic group (the "Core") of components that is substantially larger than the second largest cyclic group, and 2) this group comprises a substantial portion of the entire architecture. In addition, the classification of applications in the architecture (as being in the Core or the Periphery) is significantly correlated with architectural flexibility. In this case the architecture has a propagation cost of 23 percent, meaning almost one-quarter of the system may be affected when a change is made to a randomly selected component. Overall, results suggest that the hidden structure method can reveal new facts about an enterprise architecture. This method can aid the analysis of change costs at the software application portfolio level. Read More

Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Innovation

Sharpening Your Skills curates a wide range of Harvard Business School's research and ideas around vital topics in business management. Closed for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Visualizing and Measuring Enterprise Architecture: An Exploratory BioPharma Case

Achieving effective and efficient management of the software application landscape requires an ability to visualize and measure the current status of the enterprise architecture. To a large extent, this huge challenge can be addressed by introducing tools such as enterprise architecture modeling as a means of abstraction. In recent years, Enterprise Architecture (EA) has become an established discipline for business and software application management. Ideally, EA aids the stakeholders of the enterprise to effectively plan, design, document, and communicate IT and business related issues. Unfortunately, though, EA frameworks rarely explicitly state the kinds of analyses that can be performed given a certain model, nor do they provide details on how the analysis should be performed. In this paper, the authors present and test a method based on Design Structure Matrices (DSMs) and classic coupling measures that could be effective in uncovering the hidden structure of an enterprise architecture. The authors perform such a test using data consisting of a total of 407 architecture components and 1,157 dependencies from a biopharmaceutical company (referred to as BioPharma). Findings suggest that this method can reveal new facts about architecture structure on an enterprise level, equal to past results in the initial cases of single software systems such as Linux, Mozilla, Apache, and GnuCash. Read More

Hidden Structure: Using Network Methods to Map System Architecture

All complex systems can be described in terms of their architecture, that is, as a nested hierarchy of subsystems. Despite a wealth of research highlighting the importance of understanding system architecture, however, there is little empirical evidence on the actual architectural patterns observed across large numbers of real world systems. In this paper, the authors developed robust and reliable methods to detect the core components in a complex system, to establish whether these systems possess a core-periphery structure, and to measure important elements of these structures. Overall, the findings represent a first step in establishing some stylized facts about the structure of real-world systems. Read More

Exploring the Duality between Product and Organizational Architectures: A Test of the Mirroring Hypothesis

Products are often said to "mirror" the architectures of the organization from which they come. Is there really a link between a product's architecture and the characteristics of the organization behind it? The coauthors of this working paper chose to analyze software products because of a unique opportunity to examine two different organizational modes for development, comparing open-source with proprietary "closed-source" software. The results have important implications for development organizations given the recent trend toward "open" approaches to innovation and the increased use of partnering in research and development projects. Read More

The Impact of Component Modularity on Design Evolution: Evidence from the Software Industry

What factors should influence the design of a complex system? And what is the impact of choices on both product and organizational performance? These issues are of particular importance in the field of software given how software is developed: Rarely do software projects start from scratch. The authors analyzed the evolution of a commercial software product from first release to its current design, looking specifically at 6 major versions released at varying periods over a 15-year period. These results have important implications for managers, highlighting the impact of design decisions made today on both the evolution and the maintainability of a design in subsequent years. Read More

Best Practices of Global Innovators

Corporate R&D labs used to be the key for companies to create competitive advantage. But in the 21st century, innovation is moving out of the lab and across the globe. That's why Harvard Business School professor Alan MacCormack and his research collaborators believe that a real source of competitive advantage is skill in managing innovation partnerships. Read More

Innovation through Global Collaboration: A New Source of Competitive Advantage

Collaboration is becoming a new and important source of competitive advantage. No longer is the creation and pursuit of new ideas the bastion of large, central R&D departments within vertically integrated organizations. Instead, innovations are increasingly brought to the market by networks of firms, selected according to their comparative advantages, and operating in a coordinated manner. This paper reports on a study of the strategies and practices used by firms that achieve greater success in terms of business value in their collaborative innovation efforts. Read More

Evolution Analysis of Large-Scale Software Systems Using Design Structure Matrices and Design Rule Theory

Designers have long recognized the value of modularity. But because design principles are informal, successful application depends on the designers' intuition and experience. Intuition and experience, however, do not prevent a company such as Microsoft from constantly grappling with unanticipated challenges and delays in bringing software to market. Clearly, designers need a formal theory and models of modularity and software evolution that capture the essence of important but informal design principles and offer ways to describe, predict, and resolve issues. This paper evaluates the applicability of model and theory to real-world, large-scale software designs by studying the evolution of two complex software platforms through the lens of design structure matrices (DSMs) and the design rule theory advanced by Kim Clark and Carliss Baldwin. Read More

The World in Your Palm?

Cell phones are cameras, too. Music players are photo albums, too. PDAs browse the Internet, too. A Cyberposium panel looks at the limits of convergence. Read More

Exploring the Structure of Complex Software Designs: An Empirical Study of Open Source and Proprietary Code

How does a product's design mirror the organization that develops it, and how does such a dynamic occur? To track the evolution of one design over time, this exploratory study compared software designs developed via different modes of organization-open source versus proprietary development. As it turned out, the architecture of the product developed by a highly distributed team of developers (Linux) was more modular than another product of similar size developed by a co-located team of developers (Mozilla). The study helped reveal potential performance tradeoffs from architectures with different characteristics. Read More

Mission to Mars: It Really Is Rocket Science

Do the successful Mars missions mean NASA again has the right stuff? Professor Alan MacCormack dissects the space agency’s "Faster, Better, Cheaper" program. Read More

Education, Technology, and Business: What’s the Catch?

In a panel discussion on current and future business opportunities in the American education market, four entrepreneurs hashed out the pros and cons of entering this tricky sector. There are opportunities—for the daring and undaunted. HBS professor Alan MacCormack moderated this panel at the Conference on Social Enterprise held recently at Harvard Business School. Read More

The Secret of How Microsoft Stays on Top

Critics say Microsoft's incredible two-decade run at the top of the computer industry has less to do with innovation than it does with bully tactics. But new research from Harvard Business School professors Marco Iansiti and Alan MacCormack suggest a different reason: the company's ability to spot technological trends and exploit key software technologies. Read More

Why Evolutionary Software Development Works

What is the best way to develop software? HBS professor Alan MacCormack discusses recent research proving the theory that the best approach is evolutionary. In this article from MIT Sloan Management Review, MacCormack and colleagues Marco Iansiti and Roberto Verganti uncover four practices that lead to successful Internet software development. Read More